The Frisco RoughRiders opened Dr Pepper Ballpark in 2003 to a sellout crowd, and the pace in the Dallas suburb hasn’t slowed since. Welcome to one of the most notable and fan-friendly ballparks in all of Minor League Baseball.
Opened: April 3, 2003
Architects: David M Schwarz and HKS Sports and Entertainment.
Dimensions: 335L, 364LC, 409C, 364RC, 335R
Surface: natural grass
Owner: Frisco Baseball LP
Ticket Prices (2012): $19, $13; $9 (Outfield Grass Berm).
League: Texas League (Double-A)
Affiliate: Texas Rangers
Address: 7300 RoughRiders Trail, Frisco, TX 75034
Directions: Takes Dallas Parkway / Dallas North Tollway to Gaylord Parkway, turn east and proceed to Avenue of Stars (which leads directly to the ballpark).
Written By: Jesse Goldberg-Strassler (November 2012)
In 2000, the San Francisco Giants-affiliated Shreveport Captains finished with the worst record in the Double-A Texas League, 58-81, as well as the worst home attendance, 125,575. Things worsened the next season for the renamed Swamp Dragons, resulting in a 54-81 mark and just 59,316 total fans. In 2002, the club improved to 60-79 — and the attendance sunk deeper into the swamp, finishing at just 24,560. The team’s manager was Mario Mendoza, whose name had been attached to mediocrity ever since his own playing career.
There was a significant reason for the attendance struggles: Mandalay Baseball Properties had acquired the Shreveport Swamp Dragons in 2001, working with Southwest Sports Group to move the franchise to Frisco, Texas, in two years. While the Dragons sputtered along in the team’s final season in Louisiana, a new stadium was being built in the highly populated suburb just north of Dallas. A new partnership was announced as well, connecting the team with the Texas Rangers.
On April 3, 2003, a sellout crowd flocked to Dr Pepper/Seven Up Ballpark (shortened to Dr Pepper Ballpark in 2006) to watch the Frisco RoughRiders tangle with the Tulsa Drillers. By the first homestand, the RoughRiders had already topped the club’s season attendance from 2002; by the end of the season, a staggering 666,977 partisans came through the gates in the regular season. A postseason run kept the magic alive and the energy high. The ‘Riders raced all the way to the Texas League Championship Series before falling to the San Antonio Missions. Rave reviews of the ballpark were declared by fans and pundits alike throughout the season.
Any lingering postseason disappointment vanished quickly. In 2004, the RoughRiders drew 554,312 fans, posted an 81-59 record, and dominated Tulsa in the East Division Finals and Round Rock in the Championship Series to earn their first Texas League title.
With the 2005 departure of the Round Rock Express to Pacific Coast League, the Frisco RoughRiders established their home as the top-drawing ballpark at the Double-A level. Nothing has changed in the seven seasons since. In 2012, for instance, the ‘Riders drew 488,224 fans, nearly 100,000 more than the next highest-drawing team in the Texas League, and averaged a crowd of 7,076 per game. Those figures were topped in the Minor Leagues only by Triple-A clubs and the record-setting Class-A Dayton Dragons, another Mandalay-owned team.
There are two main entrances for fans at Dr Pepper Ballpark, home plate and center field, with the home plate entrance featuring the grand sight of rising white towers topped by gazebos.
The bullpen locations are unusual, with Frisco’s bullpen placed behind three sections of field level seats down the left field line and the visitors’ symmetrically opposite down the right field line. In this fashion, the fans sit between the waiting relievers and the field.
The stadium also features a pool in right-center, a comfortable eating patio down the right side (“The Sunroom”), and the unique sight of separated suite areas / group venues along the concourse. Whereas at other parks, there is one continuous stretch of covered concourse with suites built above, Dr Pepper Ballpark features three distinct connected segments down each line; the group venues are termed Covered Wagons, bearing to mind the image of a wagon train.
The numerous venues add up to a diverse experience; there are many ways for fans to have a memorable, engaging experience at Dr Pepper Ballpark. Meanwhile, the experiences of the Shreveport Swamp Dragons slowly fade into nothing more than memories and legends.
Team website: http://www.milb.com/team1/page.jsp?ymd=20081222&content_id=489605&vkey=team1_t540&fext=.jsp&sid=t540
Numbers cited come from the “Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Third Edition,” edited by Lloyd Johnson and Miles Wolff, published by Baseball America (2007) and MLB-Advanced Media’s online statistics portal.
Image by Mike Overall, via flickr.com.
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